Emma Ritter-Bondy was a pianist of international renown. A graduate of the Vienna Conservatory, Emma was born Emma Maria Bondy in Graz in 1838.
After completing her studies in the 1850s under Josef Fischhof, Emma began a successful touring concert career, eventually meeting and marrying the artist Franz Ritter in 1862.
In the late 1860s the couple moved to Koblenz, where Emma took a teaching post at Königlichen Gymnasium zu Coblenz, today’s Görres-Gymnasium. Their two children, Ida (born in 1874) and Camillo (born in 1875) both trained as musicians, following in their mother’s footsteps.
In 1891, having lost her husband some years earlier, Emma was appointed Professor of Piano at the fledgling Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music, founded one year earlier under the direction of the Greenock-born and Leipzig Conservatorium-educated Allan Macbeth. It was to be a momentous appointment.
The first woman to be appointed a professor in the UK was previously thought to be Edith Morley, appointed Professor of English Language at Reading University in 1908. It was also previously thought that Scotland did not appoint a woman to a professor’s chair until Margaret Fairlie was made Chair of Gynaecology at the University College Dundee (now Queen’s College, Dundee) in 1940. Although Emma was appointed Professor of Piano in 1891 and appears in the Prospectus as such in that year, our archives have no evidence of her teaching until the following year.
Emma’s personal diary is an intimate record of an immigrant single mother, simultaneously bringing up a young family and holding down an eminent teaching job in an era when married women were expected to stay at home and no state provision was available to support widows. Her diary, much of which is written in a now-broken code, was donated to the Archives & Collections by Emma’s great-grandson in 2019.